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Thursday, April 26, 2007
Review Time Again
Amazons Attack #1, by Will Pfeifer and Pete Woods, published by DC Comics
I'll just come out and say it: I kind of like continuity. By that I mean, I like it when creators take advantage of the shared universe nature of super-hero comics. It's an approach to storytelling that does, on occasion, create strange beasts, like this book, a title that seems to exist to bridge the gap between the tail-end of Infinite Crisis and the "One Year Later" relaunches and the forth-coming Countdown, with lots of ties to Greg Rucka's run on Wonder Woman, the current run of Wonder Woman, The OMAC Project and probably a few more titles by the time everything is over and done with. Pfeifer does a fairly decent job of quickly encapsulating some of the immediate build-up to this story, but in such a way that the suddenness and brutality of all out Amazonian war is still communicated. And it is a brutal war. After serving as the DCU's convenient cannon fodder for the last several years, the Amazons are fairly angry, and the book marks a noted change from the "protectors of enlightened peace" portrayal they've usually had in comic form to a more classical "remorseless female fury" portrayal. Pfeifer is especially good at subtly portraying the motivations for the war. Yes, there's the fact that Wonder Woman has been taken hostage, and yes there's also Circe's manipulations-an apparent desire to destroy the Amazons by giving the world cause to turn against them, but there's also the recently resurrected Hipolyta's desire to relive her days as a warrior-queen. Pete Woods's art has usually struck me as work-manlike. It's your standard, contemporary approach to super-hero art, though he does have a nice hand at facial expressiveness and clear, unambiguous storytelling. It's a solid approach to take on a book that's meant primarily to appeal to the existing audience and it ends up fitting the book.
God Save The Queen by Mike Carey and John Bolton, published by DC/Vertigo
The thing I was most struck by with this book after I was done reading it was that apparently the phrase "The Sandman Presents" is no longer necessary to sell Vertigo hard-covers, or at least no longer perceived to be necessary. In this particular case, that's probably a good thing, as the cameos from the Sandman cast felt rather tacked-on and superfluous. And that, sadly, is a pretty good word to use for this book, "superfluous." It's not bad enough to be offensive, or even annoying, but the story of a girl who discovers her secret connection to a magical kingdom and must save it from a menace is so horribly cliche and over-used that, when I stumble across a book on that theme in the fantasy section of a bookstore I set it down quickly and walk as far away as possible. It's been done. To death. And adding a trendy heroin addiction to the main character doesn't make that old chestnut any more palatable. Which is a downright shame, because the book boasts some lovely and lush artwork from John Bolton, whose work we don't see on shelves nearly often enough.
Justice Society of America #5, by Geoff Johns and Fernando Pasarin, published by DC Comics
Remember how I said I like continuity? Well, it's a good thing, because this latest Justice League/Justice Society/Legion of Super-Heroes cross-over is almost nothing but. And after a very rocky start, it's actually quite nice to see JSA starting to get back on track as a fairly well-written, well-characterized, "let's throw all the toys into the sandbox" type of title. It's very unfriendly to a hypothetical new reader, but I always have a hard time believing that Justice Society has been any one's first comic in the last sixty years. It's the sort of book that you have to be pretty invested into comics in the first place to even notice to pick up. And so, a fun read for DC fans, and a bit of a puzzle to everyone else. Fernando Pasarin isn't an artist whose work I recall encountering before. In comparison to regular series penciller Dale Eaglesham, Pasarin's art seems a bit stiff. His faces are nicely emotive, but there's also a sameness to most of his figures, and many of them are only really distinguishable from one another by costume. It's journeyman work, in a way; the promise of better work in the future is there, but hasn't quite arrived yet.
The Last Sane Cowboy & Other Stories by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, published by AIT/Planet Lar
Goodbrey's collection of his Isotope Award winning mini-comics is a bizarre and confounding spectacle of surreality. It's genuinely funny, but you're frequently left with a nagging suspicion that the story wasn't meant to be funny, but heart-rending. And then the next story is strongly emotionally evocative, but you half-suspect the joke's on you for not seeing the joke. In either case, it's a good kind of cognitive dissonance that's created, as the dream-logic world of Goodbrey's stories is compelling in any case. The art, which is in a high-contrast, starkly black-and-white, computer assisted style, grounds the work in a recognizably realistic and consistent appearance, which gives the needed veneer of reality to contrast the strangeness of the stories against. Which, all in all, is a rather needlessly complicated way of saying "it was really weird, but really good, and I liked it a lot."